Passenger Choice Awards Preview: Best Overall PaxEx Airline Finalists



    In anticipation of the 2015 Passenger Choice Awards ceremony we spoke with the airline finalists nominated in the Best Overall Passenger Experience category – the ceremony’s most coveted award – to discuss what winning the award would mean.


    While the inaugural route of the world’s longest flight from Dubai to Panama City doesn’t take place until February, offering the world’s longest flight can make an airline especially prone to customer complaints. But Emirates is stepping up to the challenge, showing that even on flights as long as 17 hours and 35 minutes, there’s still time for an enjoyable passenger experience. In the past year, the airline has focused on the finer details: serving Dom Pérignon rosé and canapés in first class, streaming YouTube hairstyle tutorials on its Ice IFE system, providing wireless charging trays in its lounges and getting passengers a little closer to their destinations with custom airport shuttles and codeshare partnerships with local train networks; all of which are signs of an airline that pays close attention to its passengers’ needs.

    Q&A | Patrick Brannelly, deputy vice-president, Customer Experience

    Emirates learned that a great passenger experience drives loyalty.

    What are the most important aspects of the passenger experience?

    At Emirates, we believe the most important thing is for travelers to actually enjoy the flight; that it’s something to look forward to and not just a journey you need to endure before a holiday or business trip! In-flight entertainment is very important as the time in the seat is usually such a large part of the journey, but on its own, it’s not enough.

    What would winning the Best Overall Passenger Experience mean to Emirates?

    Winning awards is always nice, but we’ve never rested on such laurels. I’ve been at Emirates for over 23 years and the energy today to improve and innovate has never been greater, which is so motivating. Awards are the voice of customers, and customers drive everything we do – and as a result drives the industry to be better every year.


    Ethiopian Airlines is quickly emerging as the most successful airline among the African carriers, taking home the “Best in Region: Africa” Award at last year’s ceremony. The airline makes frequent announcements of new flights and routes to Goma, Congo; Gaborone, Botswana; Manila, Philippines; including São Paulo; Tokyo (the only Africa-Japan flight); and the most unusual: Addis Ababa-Dublin-Los Angeles. Despite a fleet of 76, the airline has ambitious plans to double that number by 2025. Add a visit from Barak Obama at the delivery of the airline’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the ardent act of converting more than 50 percent of its long-haul fleet to flatbeds and we get the notion that Ethiopian Airlines is preparing for something big.

    Barack Obama visits Ethiopian airlines at the delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner

    Q&A | Nigusu Worku Wordofa, regional director, Americas

    What are the most important aspects of the passenger experience?

    The customer choice depends on a number of aspects and if asked to choose only three, they would include: quality of customer service, frequency and on-time performance.

    What would winning the Best Overall Passenger Experience mean to Ethiopian Airlines?

    It would mean recognition from our loyal customers and an incentive for the airline to intensify its commitment to bring world-class customer experience to its passengers. Winning is an encouragement for us to even work harder in this regard.


    Seeing Norwegian among the list of nominees goes to show that low-cost carriers may cut costs but not corners when it comes to passenger experience. Legacy carriers can woo passengers by lavishing them in luxury, but Norwegian knows its customer. Targeting emoji-fluent millennials in an Instagram campaign, the airline created a URL out of the mini expressive icons that generated an audience of 500,000. It also plans to bring its social media-savvy appeal to the US when it shuttles Americans to their Caribbean getaways this winter.

    Norweigan gets comfortable with Premium Economy
    Norwegian gets comfortable with Premium Economy

    Q&A | Boris Bubresko, head of Business Development

    What are the most important aspects of the passenger experience?

    Safety, affordable fares for all, friendly service and more environmentally friendly aircraft with free Wi-Fi.

    What would winning the Best Overall Passenger Experience mean to Norwegian?

    A confirmation that all the hard work performed every day by everybody at Norwegian is appreciated by our customers.


    As the launch customer of Airbus’ A350 XWB, Qatar Airways is doubling down on passengers per flight but not diluting the luxurious experience it is known for. With features like an onboard bar and celebrity chef-backed menu in first class, the airline caters to the elite, but its top-notch service transcends class boundaries, treating all passengers as if they were royalty.

    Q&A | Rossen Dimitrov, senior vice-president, Customer Experience

    What are the most important aspects of the passenger experience?

    Qatar Airways’ A380 First Class

    Our job at Qatar Airways is to make sure that every step of the passenger journey is memorable and enriching. The three most important aspects of achieving this goal are connecting, consistency and comfort. We like to connect with our passengers by focusing on creating moments of magic that make traveling with us an experience worth repeating again and again. Knowing that passengers will always enjoy the same level of attention builds passenger loyalty, and we make sure we never let them down by ensuring consistency across all our products and services. The third and final aspect of delivering the perfect passenger experience is providing them with a safe, efficient and robust service that makes their journey as seamless and as comfortable as possible.

    What would winning the Best Overall Passenger Experience mean to Qatar Airways?

    Winning this award would reiterate that Qatar Airways is indeed committed to ensuring that our passengers receive the very best each and every time they experience our services. It would also confirm our dedication to striving for excellence in terms of the overall passenger experience, leading the way and setting the benchmark for the future. It would also give all our employees the recognition they deserve for their hard work on a daily basis in contributing to making Qatar Airways the huge success it is today.


    Virgin America may be best known for its blond and silver-maned CEO Richard Branson who happily slaps on blue eye shadow, red lipstick and false eyelashes for a lost bet, but behind that face is an airline committed to quality passenger experience. Virgin was the first airline to launch Visa Checkout, providing a mobile-friendly payment option for its customers. It also boosted its in-flight Wi-Fi and revamped its Red IFE system giving its passengers even more entertainment choices – it’s no wonder Virgin America continues to be one of the leading airlines in the US.